Situate This !!
A Challenge of Space and Place
Paul de Guzman's exhibition at the College Building Gallery on the University of Saskatchewan campus is, in a word, bizarre.
What de Guzman presents in the upper gallery is truly outside of the usual artistic fare: the space is arranged in a broken manner, and the walls seem disjointed. There are bits and pieces of what appear to be art books (the pretty, expensive ones) from such renowned publishers as Taschen, that are in clear plastic cases on the walls. These bits look like a mad child might have chopped them up and attempted to mend them back together, to make the ultimate art book on architecture, for the insane.
There's also a plethora of text here - all backwards, I might add, so it's initially illegible (unless you use one of his shiny, mirrored exhibition invites to decipher them) - that seem to be footnotes, or endnotes. Even the title, Situate This !!, has a belligerent tone to it. There are a lot of indications that this show is all about architecture, but de Guzman seems to want to make us work for our artistic dollar.
Now, after all that, there's definitely something interesting and intriguing about the space, itself; there's an indication that there is some kind of architectural blueprint, if you will, that we can understand, or that will be revealed to us if we look long and hard enough.
De Guzman's work is focused on architecture, and architecture is the most abstract of art forms - it is the most symbolic, and it's always designed with the intention of speaking to the masses on how a building can be cited as an idea. Societies build structures not just to hold ourselves, but our ideas and hopes and dreams.
Essentially, de Guzman is playing with our assumptions on architecture, and - truth be told - he's being somewhat of a smartass about it, but satire is often our best means to truth. The words that accompany the exhibition offer the following explanation of the manner in which de Guzman challenges viewers:
"In this exhibition are recent examples from Invisible Cities, an ongoing series of altered bookworks. Invisible Cities involves the painstaking excision of layers from art and architecture publications to create small, portable, detailed architectural and intellectual interiors."
The didactic panel (the usual portal to the intentions of the artist, or curator) accompanying the exhibit further stresses de Guzman's attempts to create new ways of seeing long-established examples of architecture.
"De Guzman's artistic practice revolves around creating transient and temporary structures through linguistic models or architectural strategies. Situate This !! is a text-based architectural installation that [focuses upon] "dérive", meaning "drift" ... a practice initiated by the Situationist International (1957-1972) used to discover new patterns of movement throughout a city without a fixed path or destination. A typical situationist "dérive" [attempts] to ... enhance our experience and perception of the urban environment by attempting to break our habitual, estabished patterns of movement."
This may also be seen as meaning that one must wander a given city with no set path in order to come to understand it, in new and more meaningful ways. As someone who lives in our bereaved downtown, this speaks very clearly to me. The same could be said of viewing de Guzman's work; there is no specific area that should be examined more closely than others, and there isn't any painting that should be the sole focus of your attentions. The space is just that - a space with objects, signs and signifiers scattered throughout it. Several visits, where you simply let things catch your attention, are the best way to experience Paul de Guzman's Situate This !!.
Bart Gazzola, A Challenge of Space and Place, Planet S - Saskatoon's City Magazine, Jan. 8, 2007